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Magnificent Golden Comb Made by Greek Master a Highlight of Hermitage

Golden comb
A magnificent Scythian gold comb with an intricately sculpted crest that is thought to have been created by a Greek sculptor is one of the great treasures of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Credit Twitter/Archaeohistory

A magnificent sculpted golden comb made by a Greek sculptor, with a crest showing Scythian warriors in battle, is one of the great treasures of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The golden ornament, known around the world as “the Solocha comb,” was found in what is now Ukraine in 1913.

The crest, of Scythian origin, is believed to have been made by a Greek master for a Scythian aristocrat. It was discovered in the grave of an ancient Scythian leader.

The Scythians were an ancient nomadic people who lived for the most part on the Eurasian steppes of Kazakhstan, the Russian steppes of the Siberian, Ural, Volga, and Southern regions, and eastern Ukraine.

Scythian burial included remains of body sheathed in gold

Classical-era Scythians dominated the Pontic steppe from approximately the 7th century BC until the 3rd century BC. These people also referred to as Pontic Scythians, were part of the wider Scythian culture, stretching all the way across the vast grasslands of the Eurasian Steppe.

In a broader sense, the term Scythian has also been used for all early Eurasian nomads, although the validity of such terminology is controversial.

The comb was found in the burial mound known as the Solokha Kurgan, constructed along the left bank of the Dnieper River, near Nikopol in central Ukraine. Dating back to the early 4th century BC, it contained two royal Scythian tombs. The find was notable because it confirmed the historicity of Herodotus’ account of the Scythians.

The intact lateral tomb there yielded spectacular treasures, including the remains of a male ruler, which were completely covered in gold. The most notable burial object found with him was the golden comb with its extremely detailed group of three fighting warriors and their horses.

The Scythians are generally believed to have been of Iranian origin; they spoke a language of the Scythian branch of the Iranian languages and practiced a variant of ancient Iranian religion.

Among the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare, the Scythians replaced the Cimmerians as the dominant power on the Pontic steppe in the 8th century BC. During this time they and related peoples came to dominate the entire Eurasian Steppe from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to the Ordos Plateau in the east, creating what has been called the first Central Asian nomadic empire.

Based in what is modern-day Ukraine and southern Russia, they called themselves Scoloti (Ancient Greek: Σκώλοτοι) and were led by a nomadic warrior aristocracy known as the Royal Scythians.

Golden comb only one of the treasures created by Scythian metalworkers

The Scythians played an important part in the operation of the Silk Road, the vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India and China, which most likely contributed to the prosperity of those civilizations.

Incredibly highly-skilled metalworkers made portable decorative objects for the rulers, forming the glorious history of Scythian metalworking. These objects constituted an extremely distinctive type of Scythian art.

The name of the ancient Scythian peoples survives in the region known as Scythia. Early authors used the word Scythian for many groups who were actually unrelated to the original Scythians, including Huns, Goths, Turkic peoples, Avars, Khazars, and other unnamed nomads.

Although the Greek historian Herodotus refers to Scythian “kings,” even using their names at times, like most tribal peoples, Scythian rule actually took the form of a confederation of tribes and chiefs.

Herodotus states that while a king or chief represented the Scythian nation in dealings with other peoples, subchiefs would also have a significant say in affairs.

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